Professional sports leagues COVID-19 precautions can be used to make MCPS sports season run safely


Photo courtesy of @MCPSAthletics on Twitter

Students athletes at WCHS return to practice. By looking to professional leagues, school officials can find inspiration on how to safely reopen sports.

By Jasper Bernstein, Observations Editor

As students brace for a return to classrooms, there’s one question on every student-athlete’s mind: are we going to be able to safely bring back school sports? To find an answer for this, it’s important to look to something unexpected – professional sports leagues. 

Last year, the NBA and NFL completed a full season during the pandemic. However, there were little similarities to the way they played their seasons. 

When the NBA season got shut down in March 2020, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and his team got to work drawing up plans for a ‘bubble’ environment to safely house players. When the season restarted in August, the bubble was a success. 

“I think that they did a good job sticking to their respective protocols, and helped keep a sense of normalcy for a lot of Americans in times of distress and anxiety,” WCHS junior Andy Guo said.

The bubble was designed to be an airtight COVID-19 free space. Players couldn’t leave, visitors had to complete a lengthy quarantine before being allowed in, all packages were disinfected, and masks were mandatory at all times. The result of this was zero positive cases the entire bubble experience. 

The NFL season was given the luxury of time, where they were able to see the success of the NBA’s bubble. However, the league took COVID-19 precautions in a completely different direction.

The NFL opted to forgo a bubble, choosing a more complicated test and trace system instead. Players were tested daily, and allowed to return home nightly instead of the strictly closed environment of the NBA season. According to the NFL, only 262 players tested positive over the entire 21 week long season. 

“[The NFL plan] was effective for the most part, despite skepticism at first,” Guo said.

Both methods of containing the virus were incredibly effective, and the school board will definitely be looking at both for inspiration. 

Although the NFL’s plan to contain the virus still led to a few hundred cases, this plan seems more applicable to Churchill, as it is unfeasible to room high school athletes in a bubble away from their families for an entire season. However, the NBA’s model was more effective, and could help when drawing up final plans.

The NFL’s idea of daily tests could work at Churchill. Players could be required to submit a negative test result before every game, in the hopes of reducing the risk for players. 

“I wouldn’t mind being tested before each game,” WCHS junior and student athlete Jake Schuman said. “Testing would make the game safer.”

MCPS has released a barebones plan under the name R.A.I.S.E., which can be found on the county website. The plan does not include daily testing, but it utilizes some of the contract tracing strategies that can be found in the NFL and NBA pandemic handbooks. 

“I looked at the plan, it definitely eased my fears a bit about the [return to athletics]. But I still wish that they would do more to make sure that it’s safe,” Schuman said.

No matter what MCPS ends up doing for the return to in-person athletics, students can rest easy knowing that they had access to multiple professional seasons worth of COVID-19 prevention strategies, and were taking notes.

“In the end, it’s just exciting for the possibility of getting back on the court. I hope MCPS can find a way to let us play basketball safely,” Schuman said.